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Oklahoma woman who sought emergency abortion has complaint denied by Biden Administration

Jaci Statton speaks at a press conference held by the Center for Reproductive Rights on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2023.
Center for Reproductive Rights
Jaci Statton speaks at a press conference held by the Center for Reproductive Rights on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2023.

An Oklahoma woman with a nonviable pregnancy was told by an Oklahoma City hospital last year to wait in the parking lot until her condition was severe enough to qualify for an abortion. Now, the Biden Administration is saying the hospital did not violate federal law.

26-year-old Jaci Statton filed a complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services under a federal law, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), which ensures access to emergency services even if someone can’t pay. In her complaint, she said OU Medical Center doctors told her she had a partial molar pregnancy, which could result in hemorrhaging, infections and even death.

Two days after she was evaluated at OU Medical Center, Statton went to Wichita, Kansas to get an abortion.

President Joseph Biden said weeks before Roe v. Wade was overturned that, under EMTALA, hospitals must provide abortion services in emergencies, regardless of state bans. But Statton's complaint was denied by his administration in October and made public last week by the Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents Statton. It did not disclose why it waited months to share this decision.

Federal officials told the Washington Post they could not comment on Statton’s case or questions related to EMTALA because its process for conducting investigations should remain confidential. They defended how they've implemented EMTALA and said some cases with other hospitals “have been settled quietly.”

In November, a 5-4 majority ruling from the Oklahoma Supreme Court put three laws imposing abortion restrictions on hold pending legal challenges. But abortion is still virtually illegal in Oklahoma, with exceptions for preserving a woman’s life.

Some Oklahoma lawmakers want to further restrict travel to obtain abortions and medications that could induce it in the 2024 legislative session.

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Jillian Taylor has been StateImpact Oklahoma's health reporter since August 2023.
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